Chiefs' win eliminates Broncos from playoff contention

The Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) exploded for three touchdowns in the first quarter, cruising to a 33-10 victory over the Denver Broncos (8-7) in Week 16. Sunday's results clinch a playoff berth for the Chiefs as well as the Miami Dolphins, eliminating the reigning Super Bowl champions from postseason contention. Here's what we learned in Christmas night's AFC West clash:

  1. The Chiefs still have a shot at the AFC's No. 2 seed and a first-round bye if they win in San Diego and the Matt McGloin-led Raiders lose in Denver to close out the regular season. Should the Chiefs and Dolphins each finish 11-5, per NFL Research, Miami will nose out Kansas City for the No. 5 seed by virtue of a superior record versus common opponents.
  1. Since Andy Reid and Alex Smith arrived to jumpstart a new era in 2013, the knock on Kansas City has been a lack of explosive playmaking ability offense. With dynamic rookie Tyreek Hill joining stud tight end Travis Kelce as the twin centerpieces, that skepticism is fading.

This performance stands as the high-water mark for an offense steadily growing more dangerous throughout the season. For the first time in nearly 50 years, the Chiefs had two offensive scores of 70 or more yards in the same game. The Broncos' defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher and 100-yard receiver in the same game since November of 2014. By halftime of Sunday's tilt, Kelce was over 100 receiving while Hill was sitting on 99 rushing yards. The scoring ended with 350-pound nose tackle Dontari Poe tossing a short touchdown pass to Demetrius Harris out of the Wildcat formation. By game's end, the Chiefs had gashed Denver's normally stout defense for a season-high 484 yards. This was one of most lopsided AFC West matchups of the season.

  1. Rob Gronkowski's season-ending back surgery has opened a spirited battle between Kelce and Carolina's Greg Olsen for first-team All-Pro honors. After Olsen became the first tight end in NFL history with three consecutive seasons over 1,000 receiving yards, Kelce answered with his finest all-around effort of the season. His blocks sprang Smith and Hill for touchdowns on Kansas City's first two possessions of the game. Shortly thereafter, he took a screen pass 80 yards to paydirt for a 21-7 lead. Taking full advantage of a mismatch with Denver's safeties, Kelce broke future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez's single-game franchise record for receiving yards by a tight end, finishing with 160 on 11 catches. He also established an NFL record of his own, becoming the first tight end with six 100-yard games in a season.
  1. This is the first time since 2003 that both Super Bowl teams from the previous season failed to reach the playoffs (the Carolina Panthers were eliminated on Saturday). John Elway has established a culture that measures success only in Super Bowl appearances, which means his personnel department will spend the next three months figuring out how to fix a broken Broncos offense that sabotaged the 2016 season. Last offseason's attempt to overhaul the offensive line was an abject failure, leaving first-year starting quarterback Trevor Siemian with anemic pass protection and no semblance of a ground attack.
  1. As dysfunctional as Denver's offense has been with touchdown drives of just 39 and six yards over the past three games, the coaching staff and defensive leaders are in Siemian's corner. NFL Network's James Palmer reported last week that the team's brass has come to view Siemian -- not rifled-armed first-round rookie Paxton Lynch -- as possibly the quarterback for the next couple of years. Will that remain the plan even if Tony Romopushes for a Dallas-to-Denver trade in the coming months?
  1. If not for the Cowboys' dynamic duo on offense and the brilliance of San Diego's Joey Bosa and Jacksonville's Jalen Ramsey on defense, Kansas City's tandem of Tyreek Hill and defensive lineman Chris Jones would be drawing more Rookie of the Year buzz. With a 70-yard touchdown run, Hill joined Hall of Famers Gale Sayers (1965) and Doak Walker (1950) as the only rookies in NFL history with at least three touchdowns rushing and six touchdowns receiving. Jones crashed the pocket on Siemian all night long, making up for the absence of star pass rusher Justin Houston.
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